For discussion FCR(95-96)78
on 24 November 1995
ITEM FOR FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 106 - MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES
New Capital Account Subhead Grant to the Samaritan Fund
Members are invited to approve a commitment of $20 million under a new capital account subhead Grant to the Samaritan Fund.
The Samaritan Fund (the Fund) has inadequate funds to meet an increase in applications for financial assistance from needy patients.
2. We propose to make a grant of $20 million to the Fund.
3. The Fund is administered by the Hospital Authority (HA). The objective of the Fund is to provide emergency and temporary financial assistance to patients in public hospitals and clinics to meet expenses of medical treatment. Such expenses are generally referred to as privately purchased medical items. They cover expensive surgical implants such as cardiac pace-makers and heart valves as well as items for use by patients at home such as oxygen concentrator and wheelchairs. Some of these items cost more than $30,000 per unit. Patients, especially the chronically ill, who find it beyond their financial means to pay for these items, may seek assistance from the Fund.
4. Recent advances in medical science and technology have increased the usage of these specialised medical items in the treatment procedure or by patients at home. This has led to a corresponding increase in demand for financial assistance from the Fund. In 1992-93, 96 patients received a total assistance of $0.7 million; in 1993-94, 164 patients received $1.85 million. In 1994-95, 290 patients benefited from a total grant of $4 million from the Fund.
5. To help financially needy patients, HA has recently abolished charges for several of those privately purchased medical items, commonly needed by the chronically ill. These are replacement joints, spinal implants and special accessories required for blood transfusion. HA has also simplified the procedure and relaxed the criteria for applications to the Fund. Under the relaxed criteria, patients with a household income below the monthly median domestic household income and with a level of savings not exceeding three times the unit cost of the privately purchased medical item will be eligible for assistance from the Fund. The absence of information about household savings profiles makes it difficult to determine exactly how many people will benefit from the relaxed criteria. However, HA estimates the number of successful applicants will increase from 290 in 1994-95 to around 900 per year. This translates to an increase in annual expenditure of the Fund from $4 million to an estimated $14.5 million.
6. A $20 million grant from Government will help meet the increase in applications to the Fund. HA is now making positive progress in boosting the Fund through the following measures -
- additional financial support from existing donors to the Fund, namely, the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Sir Robert Ho Tung Charitable Fund and the Li Po Chun Charitable Trust Fund;
- more focused efforts by HA to raise funds for the Fund; and
- other donors.
As a result of these efforts, we estimate that only about $2 million would need to be drawn from the $20 million grant each year.
7. If Members approve the proposal, we shall offset the supplementary provision of $20 million required under the new capital account subhead by deleting an equivalent amount from Head 106 Miscellaneous Services Subhead 251 Additional commitments. The proposal has no recurrent financial implications.
8. The Fund was established as a trust in 1950 by resolution of the Legislative Council. HA took over management of the Fund from the former Hospital Services Department on 1 December 1991. The Fund started without the benefit of an endowment. Its regular sources of funding include the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Sir Robert Ho Tung Charitable Fund and the Li Po Chun Charitable Trust Fund.
9. For patients who indicate the need for financial assistance from the Fund, the doctors in charge will refer them to medical social workers in the hospitals. They will assess the case for financial assistance from the Fund, taking into account the stipulated criteria and other relevant social factors. Separate arrangements will be made for applicants who are Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme recipients. They will obtain financial assistance through the CSSA special grants.
Health and Welfare Branch
Last Updated on 2 December 1998